How Often Can You Grind Dog Nails?

Proper nail care is extremely important for a dog’s health and wellbeing. Overgrown nails can cause pain and discomfort and lead to more serious medical issues if left untreated. Nail trimming helps maintain good posture and mobility by preventing slipping, irregular gait, and joint issues. Regular trimming also removes layers of dead nail material to expose healthy tissue and allow the quick to recede, avoiding ingrown nails. Additionally, long nails can scratch owners or snag on objects, potentially tearing or breaking. Keeping your dog’s nails neatly trimmed prevents these problems and is a key part of maintaining good hygiene, cleanliness, and a healthy lifestyle.

As one source explains: “Nail trimming is an essential part of pet care, just like with humans! Clean, trimmed nails on your pet can be a clear sign of good hygiene and health.” (

Anatomy of Dog Nails

Dog nails consist of several anatomical parts. The visible nail is called the nail shell. It is made up of hard keratin and covers the quick and nail bed below. The quick contains blood vessels and nerves and extends into the nail several millimeters from where it meets the nail bed. The nail bed is the soft, fleshy part under the quick that sensitively connects to the paw pad. The nail folds are flaps of skin on both sides of the nail that help hold the nail in place and protect the quick. Together, the nail shell, quick, nail bed, and nail folds make up the nail unit.

According to the American Kennel Club (1), “the pink part deep inside the nail is very sensitive and contains blood vessels and nerves.” Trimming into the quick causes pain and bleeding, so it’s important to identify and avoid it when grinding dog nails.

Signs Nails Need Grinding

There are a few key signs that indicate your dog’s nails are overgrown and need grinding. According to Bubbles Dog Grooming, the most obvious sign is hearing your dog’s nails click on the floor as they walk [1]. If the nails are so long that they are clicking on hard surfaces, it’s a clear indicator they are overgrown and interfering with mobility. Dremel recommends listening for clicking nails as the primary test of whether it’s time for a grinding [2].

Other signs include nails that have curled and started growing sideways into a circle or spiral shape. This curling happens when the nails get very long. Long nails can also start to split or crack. Both curling and splitting indicate it’s time to shorten the nails by grinding them down.

Grinding Tools

There are two main types of nail grinding tools for dogs: electric grinders and manual files. Electric grinders use a rotary tool to quickly and efficiently grind down nails. Popular options include the Dremel PawControl 7760-PGK which is designed for pet grooming and provides adjustable speed control for safety and comfort.Casfuy also makes an upgraded nail grinder with adjustable speeds. Electric grinders allow you to shape and smooth nails quickly. However, the noise and vibration can startle some dogs at first.

Manual nail files don’t require batteries or electricity. They use abrasive surfaces like emery boards, files, or sandpaper to manually file down nails. While slower than electric grinders, manual filing provides more control and direct tactile feedback. It also avoids noise or vibration that could scare anxious pets. However, manually filing nails takes more time and effort than using an electric rotary tool. For patient owners and pets, manual nail files get the job done with a soothing touch.

Grinding Technique

When grinding a dog’s nails, it’s important to hold the grinder at the proper angle to avoid hitting the quick. According to experts, the best angle to hold the grinder is at a 45 degree angle to the nail[1]. This allows you to grind the tip of the nail without getting too close to the quick.

To avoid hitting the quick while grinding, it’s recommended to grind only a small amount of the nail at a time. Grind across the bottom of the nail in a straight line first, then carefully grind in at an angle from each side of the nail. Check the nail often and go slowly to avoid grinding into the quick. The quick will show as a dark circle in lighter colored nails. In dark nails, check for a chalky white center as you get closer to the quick.

It’s also important to support the paw and toe firmly but gently while grinding to avoid injury. Only apply light pressure with the grinder and keep the grinder moving constantly to avoid heat buildup. Go slowly and carefully to maintain control and avoid causing your dog pain or stress.

Grinding Frequency

The frequency with which you should grind your dog’s nails depends on several factors, but on average, grinding every 2-4 weeks is recommended.

For most dogs, their nails grow quickly enough that grinding them every 3-4 weeks will keep the nails short and prevent issues like cracking, splitting, and overgrowth. More frequent grinding, such as every 2 weeks, may be needed for dogs with very fast nail growth.

Some sources recommend grinding a dog’s nails as often as needed to keep the nails from touching the ground while standing. This prevents excessive pressure on the nails and discomfort when walking (PetMD).

In summary, every 2-4 weeks is the general recommendation for grinding most dogs’ nails to maintain a healthy, comfortable length. However, each dog may require more or less frequent grinding depending on their individual nail growth rate and lifestyle factors.

Factors Affecting Frequency

How often you should grind your dog’s nails depends on several key factors:


Puppies’ nails grow more quickly as they are developing, so they may need grinding as often as once a week. Adult dogs’ nail growth slows down, so biweekly or monthly grinding sessions are usually sufficient.

Activity Level

Active dogs that get a lot of exercise on hard surfaces naturally wear down their nail tips, meaning they may only need occasional grinding. Less active dogs or those without access to hard surfaces often need more frequent grinding to wear down their continuously growing nails.


Certain breeds like Labradors and Golden Retrievers are prone to fast nail growth and may need grinding every 2-4 weeks. Slower-growing breeds like Greyhounds may only need grinding every 4-6 weeks. Ask your vet what’s typical for your dog’s breed.

Signs Nails Overgrown

There are a few key signs that indicate your dog’s nails are getting too long and overgrown:

  • Nails touching the floor when standing – If your dog’s nails are so long that they touch the floor when they are standing normally, the nails are likely overgrown. Healthy nails should not touch the ground.
  • Clicking sounds on hard floors – If you hear your dog’s nails clicking loudly on hard floor surfaces, this is a sign the nails are too long. Properly trimmed nails should make little to no noise.
  • Nails curling – Overgrown nails may start to curl and twist. This can be painful and lead to ingrown nails.

According to the Kennel Club, overgrown nails are more prone to cracking, splitting, and tearing which can be very painful. Keeping nails properly trimmed is an important part of maintaining your dog’s health and mobility.

Health Risks

Overgrown nails can pose serious health risks for dogs. One of the most common issues is broken or torn nails, which can be extremely painful. If a nail gets caught on something and splits or tears off, it will expose the quick and cause bleeding. This type of injury is prone to infection and requires veterinary treatment (The Kennel Club).

Long nails can also lead to arthritis and joint problems over time. When nails are too long, it throws off the alignment of the foot and changes weight distribution. This excess pressure on joints like the elbow, shoulder, and wrist can cause inflammation, lameness, and cartilage damage. Keeping nails trimmed prevents unnecessary strain on the legs and joints (Lucky Tail).

In severe cases of overgrowth, the nails can curve and grow back into the paw pads. This is extremely painful and causes infection. Veterinary surgery may be required to remove ingrown nails and treat damaged tissue.

When to See a Vet

In some cases, it’s best to take your dog to the veterinarian for a nail trim instead of trying to cut them at home. According to VCA Animal Hospitals (, you should see a vet if your dog’s nails are so long that they are causing discomfort or damage to their paws. Signs of overgrown nails include:

  • Bleeding when the nails are cut – this indicates you’ve cut the quick
  • Sensitivity or pain in the paws
  • Nails clicking loudly on the floor
  • Difficulty walking normally

Veterinarians have experience trimming overgrown nails and taking precautions to avoid hitting the quick, such as trimming a little at a time. They can use coagulant products to stop bleeding if the quick is accidentally cut. For dogs that require sedation for nail trims, the vet can also provide medications to relax your dog during the process.

It’s also a good idea to see a vet if your dog’s nails are dark or black. The quick can be very difficult to see in dark nails, so the vet can use specialized lighting and tools to identify the right length to trim them.

Make an appointment with your veterinarian for a nail trim if your dog shows signs of discomfort from overgrown nails or if you have any trouble trimming them yourself without hitting the quick. They can provide a safe and stress-free nail trim experience.

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